The Party Girl Drip
By Amanda Hess on Apr 23 2014
IV therapy boutiques are selling instant hangover relief, and women are lining up. Here, straight from our May issue, an investigation of the fix de rigueur.
Last night was epic. Jen, Aimee, and Amy hit the Las Vegas Strip to test the strength of the bottle service at the Bank, a nightclub nestled inside the Bellagio hotel. The twentysomethings mixed their own vodka cranberries, sucked down shots of Jack, twerked on tables, posed for their iPhones, stumbled out of the club, inadvertently mooned the casino’s guests, and, finally, vomited in the elevator. The party ended at 3:30 a.m. The hangover was just beginning.
At 10 the next morning, the trio files into an idling tour bus in oversize sunglasses and last night’s eyeliner. Appointed with cream leather seats, drawn shades, and piped-in soft rock, it’s a miniature retreat parked in the center of sizzling asphalt. They’ve come here to rehash the details of their evening alcohol binge and to try to erase every last trace of it from their bodies. “I threw up a lot last night,” Aimee says. “I’m surprised I’m not barfing my eyes out right now,” adds Jen. Amy pinches her eyes shut and softly contributes: “Just talking about this is making me feel sick.” They pay $99 each and surrender their inner forearms to receive an intravenous cocktail known as the Party Girl Drip.
We’re at Hangover Heaven, a mobile rehydration boutique that trawls the Vegas morning for depleted partyers, then hooks them up to an IV packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and electrolytes that promises to cure the nausea, headache, bloating, and even the undereye circles and sallow skin that accompany the common hangover. At the wheel is Jason Burke, a board-certified anesthesiologist turned hangover specialist with a Herculean jaw and a Duke MD. Burke fills three pediatric-size IV bags with his custom-blended concoction, steadies a needle in each woman’s vein, and lets it drip directly into her bloodstream. The process doesn’t take long. Burke’s patients come to him swearing off alcohol, he says, but after a 45- minute hookup, “Suddenly they’re like, ‘Hey, What are you doing tonight?’ ”
Binge drinkers: Meet binge recovery. Since Hangover Heaven’s first ride in 2012, a suite of high-end IV-hydration shops have popped up nationwide. At Reviv Wellness Spa, Miami Beach partyers can absorb a “Royal Flush” infusion filled with nausea-fighting medication and anti-aging glutathione for $195 a bag. Chicagoans can get their Botox, Latisse, and IV treatments together at the one-stop IVme Hydration Clinic. And New York City’s new IV Doctor club makes house calls for up to $249 for what it calls “deathbed relief.”
The IV first got buzz in 2008 when a private club called Tenteki10 began hawking vitamin cocktails to Tokyo businessmen suffering from exhaustion, insomnia, and backaches for about $20 a bag. (For a little extra, the club also offered a controversial anti-aging IV featuring human placental extract.) Four years later, Rihanna tweeted a photo of an IV needle rooted in her forearm, long black talons still installed on her nails from the previous night’s Met Ball. Rihanna’s handlers said it was to treat a bad flu, but coming from pop’s reigning bad girl, that sounded about as believable as the intern calling in sick the morning after the company holiday party. And with one viral photo, the IV cocktail entered the party-girl domain. Madonna and Cindy Crawford reportedly are also fans. In January, Cara Delevingne joined the club when she posted an Instagram pic of two arms with needles in them, one presumably hers and another that her fans speculate was her girlfriend Michelle Rodriguez’s, over the caption “IV dripping.”
Boutique IV centers like Hangover Heaven are typically staffed by some combination of physicians, nurses, EMTs, and medical assistants, and they’re targeting a counterintuitive clientele: health nuts who moonlight as heavy drinkers. Reviv Wellness Spa’s motto is “Work Hard, Play Hard,” and it employs a fitness model as its spokesperson. IVMe says its drip is for when you “push yourself too far beyond your natural limits,” whether at the gym or bar. Jen first tried IV therapy while training to run a marathon last year.
The most reliable solution for a hangover is, of course, not to drink too much. Alcohol is a poison, and when it hits your stomach lining and liver, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase sets to work breaking it down. But as the enzyme rushes to stop intoxication, another enzyme is created, called acetaldehyde, which can have less pleasant effects such as nausea and headaches. The liver is supposed to dismantle the acetaldehyde, but if you drink excessively, it builds up—hence the hangover. Dehydration is also a risk because alcohol is a diuretic. It can irritate the stomach lining, causing diarrhea that intensifies fluid loss. And if you drink to the point of vomiting, you’ll lose liquids from that end, too.
The IV treatments, perhaps needless to say, are for partyers uninterested in prevention. They usually contain a basic saline solution—similar to one used for hospital patients suffering from extreme dehydration—plus doses of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and B and C vitamins, all of which often are depleted in heavy drinkers. Some formulations add generic antinausea and antiheadache medications to the mix. But whether IV therapy actually works any better than a placebo to cure the common hangover hasn’t been studied—and Hangover Heaven’s own “Hangover Research Institute” is unlikely to provide a reliable medical opinion on the matter.
Stanley Goldfarb, a kidney specialist and medical professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is skeptical. “People tend to think dehydration is the danger lurking behind all sorts of things,” he says, “but you can get more dehydrated on the beach on a hot summer day than you can by drinking alcohol.” The toxic products of alcohol are what make you feel bad, Goldfarb says, and time is the most reliable remedy: “It’s everyone’s experience that eventually hangovers go away.”
Hangover mitigation was not the IV solution’s most original or perhaps most noble purpose. Before it was called the Party Girl Drip, it was known as the Myers’ Cocktail, an alternative therapy pioneered by Baltimore physician John Myers in the early 1960s to alleviate everything from depression to chest pains. When Myers died, in 1984, some of his patients turned up in the office of Alan Gaby, MD, another Baltimore doctor who’d been experimenting with nutritional therapies, and asked him to administer their weekly fix. Gaby scoured his colleague’s notes for information on his IV formula but found instructions that “were about as intelligible as the words to ‘Louie Louie,’ ” he says. But he also knew that Myers’ patients claimed to feel better. Gaby tinkered with the recipe and in 2002 published a paper in the Alternative Medicine Review touting the blend of injected vitamins for treating asthma, fibromyalgia, fatigue, upper-respiratory-tract infections, cardiovascular disease, and hypothyroidism. That Gaby doesn’t have hard data to prove that the elixir combats that long list of afflictions doesn’t stop him from recommending it, but using it for hangovers is a bridge too far, even for him. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked,” Gaby says. “But should people be bailing themselves out of their drunkenness this way? It encourages them to drink again and not recognize how much it’s harming their bodies. I’d send them to Alcoholics Anonymous before I did it multiple times.”
When Burke launched Hangover Heaven, he expected to attract businessmen and bros, but his customers have ended up being 40 percent female, he says. Atlanta’s Hydration Station, which offers IVs for everything from exercise-related dehydration to morning sickness, initially attracted more men, but now its clientele is split down the middle, according to owner Keith McDermott. He once treated a bachelorette party of 12 who went out all night Friday, came in for a boost on Saturday, then “got back to enjoying themselves.” And, McDermott says, “a few straggled in on Sunday, too.”
Some studies have found that female hangovers may be more severe than male hangovers because women produce fewer of the enzymes that break down alcohol and their bodies tend to be smaller. But what Burke has noticed, he says, isn’t so much that women have it worse than men, but that the two sexes drag in with different symptoms: blinding headaches for the XYs, extreme nausea for the XXs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, American men are more likely than women to have had a drink in the past month, and they’re twice as likely to binge when they do it. But over the past decade, the media has seized on the idea that it’s women who are drinking men under the table. Last year, The Wall Street Journal announced, “The New Face of Risky Drinking Is Female” and Good Morning Americawarned that female bingeing is on the rise among all age groups. That’s true in the very long run—Americans born after World War II are more likely to binge than previous generations, and that includes women—but that’s a problem that dates back to the 1960s, according to Columbia University public health researchers. When George Mason University math professor Rebecca Goldin crunched the numbers behind recent media reports, she found that rates of binge drinking among women haven’t budged in the past 10 years.
Women may be getting extra attention because the culture is more uncomfortable with them abusing alcohol than with men, Goldin says. While we may get the message that it’s cool for us to party as hard as the boys, we’re expected to do so while staying within the bounds of “appropriate” feminine behavior. Witness all the alcohol ads featuring packs of men throwing ’em back in the company of a few elegant vixens whose role is to admire or decorate more than to swill.
A hangover pricks the fantasy, however. The antithesis of girlish sexiness, it means confronting the grotesqueries of the human body. Think about it. Hollywood has churned out blockbuster after blockbuster mining the gross-out potential of male alcohol withdrawal (together, the three Hangover films have grossed more than $1 billion internationally), and Fratire king Tucker Max purports to treat his hangovers with “a big greasy breakfast” and more beer. Meanwhile, can you think of a scene in a movie or book in which peaked ladies revel in their morning-after gluttony or bodily effusions? Yes, the Bridesmaids got big laughs for their nasty doings while trying on dresses, but the cause, remember, was food, not alcohol, poisoning.
As perverse as it may be, the IV solution functions as a peculiarly feminine solution to a problem that only the boys are supposed to suffer. It requires zero consumption, so the hungover can avoid empty calories and bloating. (“I don’t like water,” Jen admits. “I like Diet Coke.”) Chicago’s IVMe touts the treatment’s beauty benefits: “Chronic dehydration is commonly known to result in dry skin, wrinkles, skin blemishes, and accelerated aging. You can spend hundreds of dollars on topical products or you can moisturize from the inside out with one of our custom-tailored IV hydration therapies.” (The shop even offers a concoction that supposedly stimulates weight loss, for $169 a bag.) Clients enter Hangover Heaven with sunken eyes and wan complexions, Burke says, but “after the IV’s in, there’s a little more glow to the skin, light in their eyes. They start smiling again.”
Relying on a morning-after IV to facilitate getting blotto may be a devil’s bargain, but Jen and her pals couldn’t care less at this point. As the final drips of the Hangover Heaven formula enter her veins, Jen whips out her iPhone to play a video from last night’s party. The three friends erupt in giggles as Jen shields the screen. “Wait,” she asks me, “how do you feel about seeing butt cheeks?”
You can find the original article HERE.